How often should you change your toothbrush?

Brian Maurer

August 24, 2021

5 minute read

How often should you change your toothbrush?

If you're like me, you take your oral hygiene seriously. You brush twice a day for two minutes and floss once a day. But how often should you change your toothbrush?

The answer is 3-4 months for most people unless they have a medical condition that requires more frequent brushing. If so, it's important to get in touch with your dentist about what kind of toothbrush would be best for you!

Why is it important to change your toothbrush?

The American Dental Association recommends that people change their toothbrushes every 3-4 months. This is due to bristles becoming worn out and a buildup of bacteria on your brush

Wear and tear

Over time your toothbrush's bristles will wear down from use, which will affect how well you brush your teeth. The goal of brushing is to disrupt the bacteria and their biofilm (plaque) that build up on our teeth and in our gumline. So the angle and firmness of the bristles is important for optimally disrupting the bacteria and removing the plaque. 

Over time a toothbrush bristles will tend to flare out and bend making them less effective. Even electric toothbrushes heads will need to be replaced.

Bacteria buildup

Bacteria will naturally build up on your toothbrush over time. Some are picked up during the brushing process, while others come from the environment where your toothbrush is stored. 

Initially this buildup is miniscule, but over time the amount of bacteria and number of species can grow dramatically. One study looked at bacteria buildup over time and found that bacteria levels are relatively stagnant between 2 and 12 weeks of use, but show a strong increase in number after 12 weeks [1], including some species that may have come from aerosols from the toilet flushing in the bathroom.

Who Should Change Their Toothbrush More Often?

People with braces

People with braces should ensure that they are brushing thoroughly to avoid tooth decay and gum disease. If you wear braces, your dentist or orthodontist can tell you exactly what kind of brush and how frequently it needs to be changed.


Thoroughly cleaning between teeth is critical. People with larger dental work like crowns and those with implants and other dentures will need more frequent toothbrush replacements, since the bristles on these types of brushes will wear out quicker, and spreading plaque between teeth is easier when you have larger surfaces to clean.

Should you replace your toothbrush after you’re sick?


Although it was traditionally advised that people should throw their toothbrush away after they’ve been sick to avoid reinfection, recent studies have called this into question. 


Researchers from the University of Texas Medical Branch [2] tested the toothbrushes of 40 children who were healthy or recently had strep throat. Of the 40 toothbrushes tested they found the bacteria that causes strep throat on only 1 toothbrush, which belonged to a healthy child. 


More research should be conducted to confirm these findings. 

How To Make A Toothbrush Last Longer?

Some people like to sterilize their toothbrushes by soaking them in boiling water. This helps prevent germs from one person's mouth to another's but does not replace the 3-4 month recommendation for changing toothbrushes. The ADA states that regular cleaning of your toothbrush can keep it lasting longer.

Here are some tips from the ADA [3]:

  1. After brushing, rinse your toothbrush with tap water until it is completely clean, let it air-dry, and store it in an upright position. If more than one brush is stored in the same holder, do not let them touch each other.
  2. You do not need to soak toothbrushes in disinfecting solutions or mouthwash, which may actually spread germs under the right conditions.
  3. You do not need to use dishwashers, microwaves, or ultraviolet devices to disinfect toothbrushes. These methods may damage the toothbrush.
  4. Avoid covering toothbrushes or storing them in closed containers, which can cause the growth of bacteria.

Conclusion

Replacing your toothbrush every 3-4 months is a good rule of thumb for optimal oral health. It will make sure your toothbrush bristles can effectively remove plaque and tartar buildup and help to prevent any gum disease or cavities. 


  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7563892/
  2. https://www.nbcnews.com/healthmain/how-dirty-your-toothbrush-answer-not-much-you-think-6c9772732
  3. https://www.ada.org/en/member-center/oral-health-topics/toothbrushes

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